For many Chicago agents of social change - from non-profits to social entrepreneurs - coworking spaces are becoming hot spots of activity. Taking an almost open source approach to working, they provide facilities for freelancers, business owners, and other like-minded people to collaborate, cooperate, and build their own sense of community. (They also provide office space and amenities at relatively low cost for startups and smaller organizations). In Chicago, there are three coworking spaces which are driving social impact by bringing together a diverse range of individuals.
One of them is Panzanzee, a coworking space/business incubator located in River North. Although they hold a variety of trainings and events throughout the year, Panzanzee focuses on incubating three kinds of organizations: social impact businesses, traditional businesses, and non-profits with a business model. They're also one of the more active coworking spaces in social media, focusing on engaging a wide audience via Twitter and Facebook. By bringing together a diverse range of individuals and resources, Panzanzee works towards empowering members and businesses to make a maximum impact...which has a greater effect on the overall community.
In the same neighborhood, The Work Well is a relative newcomer to the coworking field. (Thanks to the Nonprofit Pros in Chicago Facebook group for making the connection). Although its amenities might be geared more towards a corporate audience, Work Well also contains some activity by non-profits, including No Stigmas. (Its pricing also makes it attractive for potential customers - I have to admit that I'm considering checking it out for a day). Convenient to transportation, the Work Well is a sharp up-and-comer in the coworking field.
But Blue 1647, located in the heart of Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, provides a wide variety of services for social change agents and other local entrepreneurs. This incubator/coworking space focuses on education (through a variety of workshops), workforce development, and business development/economic acceleration. It also provides a more range of activities, focusing not just on nuts-and-bolts businesses, but also on fostering a strong sense of community. (It's no surprise that Blue 1647 is listed in the City's first official Tech Plan, and if you want to sample the range of sessions, simply visit their Meetup group for a sampling. (You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook as well).
Coworking may sound like a buzzword, but at its heart is the idea that like-minded people can accomplish more by gathering and collaborating....and ultimately, community is always about striving to find common strengths and interests to benefit the common good.
Can you recommend any coworking spaces/social business incubators in Chicago? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below. You are always more than welcome to reach out to me privately with questions or comments - my contact information can be found on the blog's About page . (Also please be sure to follow us on Facebook as well)
And as always, thanks for reading!